home           about           reviews           author insight           review policy

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More Author Insight: Sold or Sell Out?

 How much of a manuscript are you willing to change at the request of an agent or editor? Would you change it if it meant a certain distributor or book club wouldn't offer your book otherwise?

"Wow, great question! I've been working with my agent for years, and I feel very fortunate that we're so simpatico about my writing that this has never happened. When my agent told me we had an offer for Wither, before accepting I asked to speak with my potential editor and get a sense of her vision for this story. It was clear from the start that we'd be a perfect match. All of the revisions have enhanced the story without changing Rhine's voice or the world I'd set up; none of the changes were made at my reluctance. It's been my experience so far that when an agent chooses to represent a story, and a publisher chooses to buy a story, it's because they love it for what it is and only want to make it better rather than change it." - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

"It would really depend on the changes.  I changed quite a big chunk of The Deathday Letter for my editors at Simon Pulse but only because I believed they made the book better.  I'm always open to change but it's got to be in the best interest of the book.  If my editors had asked me to add vampires to Deathday because a big bookstore wanted it, I would have said no." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"I don't think there's a limit to what I would change - it's more a matter of what the changes meant to the story - I wouldn't be keen to make changes that took away things that went against who the characters are. The same goes for the second part of the question.." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"It would probably depend on who was asking me to make the change. If it was my agent or editor, I'd take a second look at what they were suggesting since I trust both of their judgments. If it was some whackadoodle person, I wouldn't do it. As far as distribution or book clubs go, I'd be curious to see what they wanted to change. If they wanted an f-word taken out on page 34, then I'd probably change it. If they wanted to change a huge section of the story or modify a character to make him or her more palatable, then absolutely not. I have my limits." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June
"If it makes the story stronger, I’m willing to change a lot. But I need to see how it would make it stronger. I’d be very willing to discuss with my editor or agent and go over the feedback carefully, and then see what works. As for distributors and book clubs, I believe editors would keep those factors in mind when they gave their feedback to me in the first place." - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage

"I am a deep believer in revision. When I write, I tend to just let myself loose, following the characters where they take me. So when I finish a draft, it's often in need of a lot of work. I am lucky enough to really trust both my agent and my editor, and when they call for a change, even a major change, I might get my feelings hurt for about two minutes, but I generally go along with it. There are certain things I feel are crucial to the story that I will fight for, and I would still fight for those things even if it meant losing a distributor or book club, in the end, but all in all, I'm pretty amiable about change." - Cynthia Hand, author of Unearthly.

"I appreciated constructive feedback from agents in the query stage and revised before sending UMS out again. But these were mistakes common to most beginning writers – not requests to change characters or plot, so I had no qualms about tweaking things. I’m out to entertain, to provide escape and offer a few thrills, however, if an editor thinks I’ve stepped over a line, I’m not a diva – I can look objectively at a scene and rework it if needed. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t fight to keep something I believed was crucial to the story or character development." - Judith Graves, author of Under My Skin.

"I've been so lucky with my editor and agent. They share the same vision for the book that I do. When they've wanted a change I didn't completely agree with, there was always a way to address the concerns they had while staying true to that vision. Finding the right solution is hard, but so worth it." - Rae Carson, author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

"I don’t think it’s a matter of 'how much' as much as what changes I am asked to make. I have changed large portions of manuscripts before because the suggestions I received resonated with me. But I would not make changes if they weren’t true to the story, the characters, and the voice." - Veronica Roth, author of Divergent

"I trust my agent implicitly. I revised for her before I went on submission to publishers. And ditto for my editor. She knows way more about the business than I do. Unless my writerly intuition was shooting off serious warning bells, if she asked for changes I'd make them. " - Myra McEntire, author of Hourglass.


"Tough question! My impulse is to say 'a lot,' but that really depends. I've never been in that position, but I usually trust me editors to 'get' me and the story. If it were a change that violated the story I wanted to tell? I'd probably fight. But the thing is, if you're with the RIGHT agent, or the RIGHT editor, I honestly don't believe they'll ask for story-violating changes. And yeah, I'd change something if it meant a major retailer wouldn't pick up the book! I want it to be read by as many people as possible!" - Rachel Hawkins, author of Demonglass

"I think Maggie Stiefvater has given amazing advice about this that I try to take to heart: find out what the core of your novel is. Be willing to change everything but that." - Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

"I've been fortunate in that I've always felt the changes requested of me have always been for the purpose of making a strong narrative. However, as a YA writer, I'm always extremely conscious of the extremely difficult task I face trying to balance the sensitivities of my audience - and probably more to the point, the gatekeepers to that audience - with the need to present a realistic portrayal of my subject. It's something I really struggled with - more like agonized over - in my upcoming book, Want to Go Private? It was really important to me that the book be available to the kids who are at the most vulnerable ages to predators - teens middle school and early high school - so I was conscious that there couldn't be too much sex and language or else it might not make it into the middle school libraries. But on the other hand, how do you realistically portray the grooming process without any sex and language? It simply cannot be done. In fact, according to my research with the FBI, real predators get 'very dirty, very quickly'. In order to minimize the language and sexual content, I made a conscious decision to focus more on the seductive and emotional aspect of the grooming process. I'm aware, however, that in all likelihood, the book might get challenged. I would love the opportunity to speak to the parents who do challenge the book in conjunction with an agent from their local FBI office or the Youth Division of their local police station that deals with Internet crime, to talk about Internet Safety. I would hope to convince them that it isn't 'protecting' kids to take a book away because it has a few words in it when life online poses infinitely more dangers." - Sarah Darer Littman, author of Life, After.

 "I have changed almost every word in several of my books, but only because it makes the story stronger. I don't worry so much about the marketplace. My books manage to find their ways to readers without the help of power players like gargantuan book clubs, mega chain bookstores, and monster warehouses." - Mitali Perkins, author of Bamboo People.

"I would make changes to improve a story, but never to appease someone's delicate sensibilities. Writers write--they don't take dictation." - Dia Reeves, author of Slice of Cherry.

"I’ve never believed that every word I write is sacred.  As a writer, you must be willing to listen to other people’s feedback, especially the feedback of those you trust.  If my agent or editor, both of whom I trust wholeheartedly, offer a suggestion to my manuscript I will usually take it.  They are the ones who know what distributors and book clubs want." - Emily Wing Smith, author of The Way He Lived.

"I definitely take my agent’s and editor’s suggestions very seriously, and will almost always at least try to incorporate their ideas, even if in the end, they just don’t work out.  I will say that, generally, they are both VERY intuitive, so trusting them is easy.  As far as distributors or book clubs, it would certainly depend on what they were requesting.  I knew ahead of time that I was disqualifying myself from Scholastic Book Fairs by using swear words and having (even a small amount) of teen drinking.  So, clearly, I wasn’t overly influenced." - Kimberly Derting, author of Desires of the Dead.

"I've never been asked to change anything significant, so it's hard to say.  I do think that a great book is very often a collaboration between the author and his/her editor, and I'm very open to any and all editorial suggestions.  Luckily, both my agent and editor are the type that are more likely to point out what's not working for them, but let me find the way to make it "right" rather than telling me how they think I *should* write it.  As to changing something to appease a distributor or book club, I guess it would really depend on what they wanted changed, and how integral that element was to the story.  Because in the end, the story is what it is, you know?" - Kristi Cook, author of Haven.

 "I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t been asked to change anything I didn’t feel comfortable changing.  I hope that I would never agree to anything that I didn't think would improve a manuscript just to appease the marketing side of the business." - Holly Hoxter, author of The Snowball Effect.

Stop by Thursday to learn the best piece of advice each our authors received early on!

1 comment:

  1. Love these posts!!! LOVE LOVE them, keep em coming.

    Its always so interesting to hear why authors write and how they think up their amazing stories!